The head of Armenia’s most powerful security agency has warned opposition groups against trying to forcibly topple the government, saying that such attempts would meet with a “resolute” response.
Gorik Hakobian, the director of the National Security Service (NSS), blasted unnamed opposition politicians “making irresponsible calls for uprisings and a violent overthrow of the authorities” as he marked a professional holiday of the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB on Saturday.
“We will take all necessary measures to resolutely thwart any illegal action aimed at disrupting the country’s constitutional order. This is not a threat. We just see a need to warn,” Hakobian told hundreds of NSS officers at a special meeting that was also attended by Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and the heads of other law-enforcement bodies.
In his speech cited by the Armenpress news agency, Hakobian stressed that the NSS has no intention to crack down on dissent or limit citizens’ freedom of assembly. He said it would only act strongly against attempts to “provoke mass disturbances and clashes.”
The warning appeared to be addressed to Armenia’s three leading opposition parties that held in September and October a series of nationwide protests purportedly aimed at achieving “regime change” in the country. One of their leaders has described their campaign as a “velvet revolution.”
Contrary to some expectations, those rallies did not develop into non-stop anti-government protests apparently because of a cautious stance taken by Prosperous Armenia (BHK), the largest of the parties challenging President Serzh Sarkisian. Still, the opposition trio has pledged to continue its campaign in the coming months.
“I don’t have the competence or desire to comment on the statements made by the NSS chief,” BHK spokesman Tigran Urikhanian said on Monday. “I see nothing in his statements which is directed at the BHK.”
But Armen Martirosian, a leader of the opposition Zharangutyun (Heritage), described Hakobian’s statement as a sign of mounting government fears. “The authorities are worried not just about activities of opposition forces,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “They know very well what policies they have implemented and the resulting socioeconomic situation.”
Martirosian made clear that the Armenian opposition could take “large-scale actions” next spring. “There is no going back,” he said.
For its part, the opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK) condemned Hakobian’s warning as “illegal” and unfounded, saying that it is aimed at “intimidating the public.” “If there is anything posing a threat to Armenia’s constitutional order it is the ruling regime and its continuing repressions against citizens and political forces,” the HAK said in a statement.